THE BLOG

Brief Encounter

06/03/2011 12:17 pm ET | Updated Aug 03, 2011

As you all presumably know, there has been enormous press coverage of a possible scandal based on Internet communications, allegedly from Congressman Anthony Weiner and addressed to a college student in Washington State. Both parties deny that they ever met, but that deepens the mystery of why a public official would send a bizarre photograph of his own amply filled underpants to a woman, an event which is considered unlikely to have occurred in the manner depicted.

Unlike most of the media, we will look at the issue without gratuitous puns or snide references. The subject is intrinsically interesting because it involves an important man (think Eliot Spitzer, former Congressman Chris Lee and Dominique Strauss-Kahn) involved with a woman not his wife in a manner considered inappropriate by most of the public. One wonders why those men were foolish enough to become involved in damaging situations, whether the momentary orgasmic release is worth the prolonged pain and embarrassment that is likely to ensue? In some cases, the immediate pleasure surmounts the risk, because men keep doing it, and some of them get caught.

In the Weiner case, it seems totally bizarre that a man who has devoted his life to personal ambition and public service should jeopardize all of that for the vicarious pleasure of sending unsuspecting, relative strangers a photograph, not even of his genitals, but of his stuffed drawers. This may be a fetish or a perversion whose name has not yet come to our attention, but in time it may be entered on the list of psychiatric disorders. It may, or may not, have happened.

Rule 34-S, obviously not original, is "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword." Substitute "press" for "sword" to get Rule 34-P. There is irony if this congressman's embarrassment, and possible ruination -- if such is to be the case -- comes at the hands of the same instrumentality he used so effectively in his rise. Whatever they may bleat, his rivals are not distressed at his misfortune. It assists them in pursuing their own ambitions, and it immobilizes a power-seeking force that could be used against them.

We waited until the end of the day to send out this relatively brief article, anticipating that new events or interpretations would transpire (become known) during the afternoon. We believe that by tomorrow morning, more facts will be revealed. Whatever may have happened is recorded on mechanical devices somewhere, and it is probably simply a matter of time before the truth is discovered.

The last item we received comes from one Benjy Sarlin, a writer for Talking Points Memo, a major, left-leaning online publication. Its headline: "Leaked Emails Show Tip to Breitbart About Weiner Tweet." Its lede: "The ongoing scandal surrounding a lewd tweet sent from Rep. Anthony Weiner's Twitter account took yet another turn for the weird Thursday as alleged e-mails between the person who first noticed the photo and conservative media guru Andrew Breitbart were leaked." For the rest of this tale, which has considerable bearing on the origin of the story and the motives of those who disseminated it, click here.

If the congressman distributed salacious photos to an audience, that is very bad because it would show a profound lack of judgment. If someone stole the undistributed photos from his computer and sent them out in an effort to embarrass the congressman, that is very bad, and should be criminal. There is the possibility that the congressman or his agent took the picture, and the photo was hacked (stolen, to seniors) and distributed by his political enemies, who are widely depicted as numerous and motivated, in part by the congressman's progressive ideology and in part by his aggressive personality, which probably has had a role in his political and social success over the years.

In our judgment, stealing and distributing an image is a worse sin than taking a foolish and embarrassing photograph of oneself. We are not learned in photography, but the picture looks like it was taken by the owner of the underwear.

Another story came out this afternoon on Salon.com: "Embarrassing Emails From Weiner Tweeter Leaked." It was written by Justin Elliott. It refers to intriguing an article "The Wolfe at Anthony Weiner's Front Door" just published by The Smoking Gun, which includes the revelation that Dan Wolfe, the conservative activist who is the apparent source of the leaked tweet, claimed on May 5th, three weeks before the current scandal, that "compromising photos of a 'big time' congressman were in the hands of a 'top 5 Right Wing blogger.' He tweeted, '@RepWeiner are you this Congressman?' He reprised this photo rumor in a May 11 tweet." The story began to go public on Friday, May 27. Was Wolfe prescient or was he guilty?

It is fascinating to observe how the Internet telescopes the news cycle, at least with regard to time. We will see what tomorrow brings in this case. The congressman may have acted foolishly, first in having the picture on his computer (if it were there) and, second, with his confused responses to media questioning in a series of press meetings which he called. But it is not likely that he was foolish enough to disseminate an embarrassing photograph of himself. If he did that, he needs psychiatric help. If he did not, we should see to it that his accuser is identified and punished. Fair is fair.